The first video of the encounter between the Russian Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Vinogradov and the USS Chancellorsville cruiser appeared online on 7 June, but what drew the attention of many viewers was not how close the ships came to each other, but a surprising sight on the aft of the Russian destroyer.
The footage shows what appeared to be several Russian sailors sunbathing on the destroyer's helicopter pad amid what was called by the US Navy an "unsafe approach" that nearly resulted in a collision. The sailors, however, did not seem to worry much about the two ships possibly crashing into each other, as one of them looked like he was relaxing in a sun lounger naked while two others were improving their tans shirtless.
Some netizens found the sight of the laid back sailors to be the best evidence that the Russian destroyer wasn’t performing any aggressive actions against the USS Chancellorsville, as some American media outlets have suggested.
CNN's coverage of the Russian-American navy ship entanglement was needlessly warlike, painting a picture of a deliberate Russian attack: when the sun-bathing Russian sailors in precarious position give strong evidence it was all an accident. Reckless, mindless drums of war! pic.twitter.com/ROf8ygRSMI— Sean Lawlor Nelson (@HornedPoet) June 8, 2019
Kind of indicates that this was not intentional but a crossing situation nearly gone bad.— Sal Mercogliano (@mercoglianos) June 7, 2019
Many twitterians were amazed at how the Russian sailors kept their cool in the midst of such an uneasy situation and simply continued enjoying their day.
The Russian sailors just chilling 😄 pic.twitter.com/qdYrZE543w— Lando (Tanz) (@Senjo41A) June 7, 2019
Others suggested that the mood on the USS Chancellorsville was likely quite the opposite.
While there is apparently a complete and intense panic on the US warship, Russian sailors are getting a sun tan on the helicopter deck of their anti-submarine guided missile destroyer.— ᴢᴀᴘʀᴜᴅᴇʀ ɪɴᴄ (@patricksavalle) June 7, 2019
That's what I see ;) https://t.co/sn30pexYzN
All these commotions from the US and the Russians are sun bathing at the deck. Cool guys!— Fretchie Seniel (@flseniel) June 8, 2019
One social media user noted that the sailors were probably just unaware of what was going on.
More an indication of most folks on a Naval vessel having no clue what is going on outside their own department. Of if you are a Marine aboard, no clue beyond the chow line and gym.— CptRon (@HeartRjl) June 7, 2019
The Russian Navy has slammed the US ship's actions in the East China Sea, which nearly led to a collision with the Admiral Vinogradov. According to Russian naval officials, the USS Chancellorsville suddenly changed course and crossed the path of the Russian destroyer, coming as close as 50 metres from the ship.
The US Navy, in turn, presented its own version of events, portraying the incident as a result of the Russian destroyer's "unsafe and unprofessional approach" to the USS Chancellorsville, which, as the Navy claims, was sailing on a steady course to recover a helicopter.